Monday, April 28, 2014

Milagres acontecem (Miracles Happen)

Oi família!

Well, these past few weeks have been pretty legit.  All of our baptisms that we had planned fell through.  BUT, we´ve found some super awesome new investigators and we have a couple that will get married on the 7th so the husband can get baptized.  We´re still working with his girlfriend, but for now he´s the only one committed.

But, that´s the cool thing.  Élder Bradley and I have been thinking a ton about what we can do to have more success, especialy in baptizing.  We´ve been lacking in baptismal numbers lately and we want to really stretch and baptize this transfer, ideally every week (hey in Brazil, you can do things like that).  I´ve been praying a lot about what I can do personally to really baptize more because I felt for a while that I wasn´t really a "baptizing missionary."  Then I remembered a short discourse I read once from Élder Balard that said, "the difference between a baptizing missionary and a non-baptizing missionary is all in the attitude."

So, here´s where we get to the story of Regis and Maria.  Remember Elizabeth from a few weeks back?  Well, her baptism didn´t come through.  But, he daughter and son-in-law who are living with her right now have great potential.  Her son-in-law, Regis, is a less-active member of many years and her daughter, Maria, is not a member.  We began to teach them all together and after the first lesson Maria seemed skeptical.  She said she was willing to pray.  We returned a few days later and presented The Book of Mormon.  She accepted it easily, though she and Elizabeth both still seemed reluctant to accept the message.  As we were leaving I had a slight feeling that we needed to leave Alma 32 with her.  We left it and we started praying like crazy that everything would work out.  The following Sunday, they slept through church, but we visited them the following night.  When we showed up, it was as if a miracle had occured.  Maria´s original skeptecism had completely dissapeared.  She began asking questions about the Book of Mormon and then shared with us a scripture that she really liked Alma 32:27 that talks about "experimenting on the word".  Then, with no prompting from us, she said "So basically, I have to try out what you guys are saying and that will confirm to me that these things are true."  We were a little shocked that everything came together so fast but testified "Yes! That´s what you need to do!"  We continued to visit throughout the week and she had some of the most amazing questions.  We learned a lot about the importance of scripture study to answer her questions as well.  Then she came to church yesterday with Regis.  We left them at their house and said if we weren´t transfered that we´d drop by that night.  We waited anxiously for the call and Élder Santos glady announced we´d be staying. We kneeled in prayer before we headed out and I asked our Father in Heaven to bless us with a miracle. We booked it to Regis and Maria and as we began the conversation she said "so we need to get married before I get baptized?"  After explaining that they would have to be married they said "well, we´ll probably wait, because we have to return to Regis´ house to care for his mom" (who lives close to São Paulo).  I then said "well, if we mark your marriage this week, you can be married before the end of the month before you have to return to Minas Gerais" and they responded "Really?"  "Absolutely" we said.  So, they´ve agreed to get married now so that she can be baptized now.  But that´s the blessing.  We really believed that a miracle could happen.  I think this applies to all of us.  If we really believe miracles can happen, they will.  But we have to be willing to let the Lord work.  So, make some miralces happen in your own lives. 

Até o próximo milagre,

Élder Evans  

Monday, April 21, 2014

Whoa... The Spirit works....

Oi família!

So, taking it all into consideration, I think it will be a lot easier for you all to learn Portuguese for our Mother´s day call than it will be for me to speak in English.  We taught an English class last week and for the life of me, I couldn´t speak English.  Well, I could, but when I would start to speak English, I would stop thinking and Portuguese would slip out.  It´s kind of funny because all of the little kids around here coming running up to us and start saying little phrases they learned in school like "What´s your name?" and I always respond "I can´t speak English"  The best part is, it´s really not a lie.  Long story short, I´m probably going to speak in more Portuguese this mothers day than I did during Christmas.

Also, Mom beamed me the big news, PHELPS IS COMING BACK!!!!  My boy, Michael Phelps is heading to Rio. But enough of Babylon.

But this week was awesome.  I learned bucketloads about myself, and my companion, and more importantly, how we can work together.  There was one experience in particular that I would love to share with each of you that began as we were in our district meeting for the week.  Our Zone Leaders were telling us that we needed to work harder and that the reason we weren´t having enough baptisms is because we need to give our 100% to the Lord.  As I was sitting in the meeting, I felt a little lost.  I´ve been trying to give my 100% to the Lord ever since I got here.  I sat and I ponderd about what more I could do and the Spirit whispered to me that I needed to pray more.  Though I felt a little confused, I decided to go for it.

We had an exchange later that day and our Zone Leader, Élder Santos, came here to work with me.  As we knelt in prayer to begin our day I prayed specifically that the Spirit would magnify our words.  WE headed to lunch, and our lunch appointment fell through.  This has never happened in my time here and I was worried.  I thought "great, this is a sign.  Everything is going to fall through today."  Well, the Lord blessed us and it all worked out.  We headed to our first apointment with a man named Francisco.  We made contact with his mother a few days earlier and scheduled our visit.  She wasn´t available, but he was.  So we began teaching about the Resoration.  It was one of the most marvelous lessons I´ve ever been in in my life.  Élder Santos and I were 100% in sync the whole time, even though we´ve never taught together before.  The lesson flowed so smooth and Francisco understood perfectly what was happening.  Then, we got to my favorite part.  I explained about Joseph Smith and his grand question of which of all the churches was right.  As I began to explain the First Vision, I felt the Spirit a little, but not anything grand.  As I began "I saw two Personages whose brighness and glory defy all description" I suddenly became filled with the most inexplainable joy.  The Spirit was working through me to testify to this man that these things are true.  As I taught, my own personal testimony was renewed.  As we finished the lesson we invited him to pray and seek and answer.  And then invited to baptism.  Without much hesitation he said "Yes.  I will be baptized"  It was amazing.  The rest of the day was much the same.  We taught, we testified, and the Spirit confirmed our words.  I began to see that the experience of Brigham Young applies.  He explains his conversion by saying that if all the tact in the world had tried to convince him of the truthfulness of this work, he wouldn´t have believed it.  But a simple tesitmony, confirmed by the Spirit changed his life. 

I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet called by God and Jesus Christ to restore the proper church of Jesus Christ to the earth.  I love the opportunity I have each and every day to testify of the divinity of his work to the world, and the dear people of Ceará.  I know that the Lord has blessed me beyond measure as I know He has blessed you.  So, go out and share those blessings.  There are millions in this world who don´t have the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.  Get out there and share it.  They need it.

Élder Evans

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Dia das Mães (Mother´s Day)

Oi Família!

Well, this call we´re blessed to have more time to plan. 

President Souza has sent out the directive that we can Skype on the Monday (the 12th) or call on Mother´s day (the 11th).  It doesn´t really matter to me, but I´ll leave it up to you.  The call will be 40 minutes as was the last one.  The earliest I could skype on the Monday would be 10:30 our time, which I think translates to roughly 7:30 your time.  I still need to talk to Bishop to see if we can use the phone in the chapel to call, but I don´t know why he would have a problem.

Basically, this is all the information I have.  Let me know what works for you.  I´m more than happy to do a phone call or to skype, but I want to do what is most convenient for y´all. 

Te amo!

Élder! Fique triste mais! (Elder! Be sad more!)

Oi família!

So, this week was buckets of interesting.  We had a good time and some pretty cool miracles happened.  We had a legit tender mercy that happened.  We had to go to Centro (which is like the downtown district here) to mark a marriage for a couple we´re teaching.  As we were walking I hear someone call out "Élder!"  The family in Parquelândia with whom we spent New Years was at the exact same intersection.  I stopped and introduced them to my companion and we talked for a little bit.  Basically, I was just pumped to see them.  Major tender mercy to see how the Lord´s timing is truly perfect.

But as we returned home, we were super excited to teach.  We had a bunch of referrals lined up and a bunch of awesome contatcs marked to visit that day. And every single one of our plans fell through.  We were more than a little bumbed. Élder Bradley was a little discouraged and we talked as we were walking.  He expressed his frustration that we hadn´t had the opportunity to teach much that day.  As we were talking I remembered a scripture dad sent me a number of months ago as I was serving in Kansas in Doctrine and Covenants 64:33-34.  It speaks of how we are "laying the foundation of a great work"  and that the lord requires a cheerful heart to reap the good of Zion in the last days.

The next day we awoke, studied, taught our first english class and headed out for the day.  Our first appointment fell through because his house doesn´t exist.  Or we just couldn´t find it.  The address is painted on the side of the villa, but for some reason, his house just wasn´t there and no one knew where it was.  We were more than a little frustrated.  We headed to our second appointment, a woman named Elizabeth.  We had contacted her the day before when the referral we received for her neighbor fell through.  When we arrived she already had the chairs set in their places and warmly invited us in.  As we were beginning her son-in-law came in and sat down with us.  We began talking with him and during the conversation he said "well, I heard you were coming over today and I wanted to sit in with you.  I´m actually a member of the church but I haven´t been in over 10 years."  The next thing I knew the words sprang from my mouth "Well, what are the two of you doing tomorrow morning?" 
Elizabeth: "Nothing really"
Us: "Great!  How about coming to church with us?"
Elizabeth: "That would be great!" I would love to go!"
Regis (son-in-law): "You know, I would really like to go too."
Bear in mind.  We haven´t yet taught this woman a single thing yet, and she already accepted the invitation to go to church.  The Spirit was already super strong and we hadn´t even prayed.  We prayed and began the lesson and as we taught and testified of Joseph Smith seeing God the Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ the Spirit was burning up the room.  Then another question sprang from my lips:
Us: "Elizabeth, how are you feeling right now?"
Elizabeth: "I´m feeling good"
Which is actually a typical response from the people here.  But then she went on.
Elizabeth: "I´m feeling really good.  In fact, I´m feeling a really strong peace.  Yesterday when you were talking with me at the gate I felt the same peace and I´m feeling it again.  It´s wonderful."
Us: "Elizabeth, that is the Holy Ghost.  His purpose is to testify of truth.  Knowing that this really is the church of Christ reestablished on earth, are you willing to follow this feeling?"
Elizabeth: "I am"
Us: "Are you willing to follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized by someone holding the priesthood authority of God?"
Elizabeth: "I am"
Us: "We will be holding a baptismal service on April 27th.  Will you prepare yourself to be baptized on that date?"
Elizabeth: "I will"
Pause for a moment and think about what just happened.  The Spirit was so strong she could not deny that these things were true.  The next day she and her less-active son-in-law came to church and loved it.  I was talking to Élder Bradley afterwards and said "You know, I don´t think she understood 100% of the doctrine, but she felt that what we were saying was true.  That is true conversion."  and then I followed that up by saying "Elder, you need to be sad more.  When you get sad, miracles happen."  Sure, it wasn´t his sadness.  But remember, the Lord, at times, will give us trials, so that we may better appreciate the blessings. 

The next day we taught another lesson where a previously uninterested investigator accepted a baptismal date.  That night we made contact with a woman who wants to raise her children in the "Mormon Church" so they can be in the right way.  One way or another, the Lord makes miracles happen.  Sure, weeping may endure for the night, but joy cometh in the morning.

The Lord loves us.  More than that, He restored the fulness of the gospel of His Son through a prophet.  We have a living prophet today.  I know it because the Spirit testified to me.  He is testifying to you.

Até o próximo!

Élder Evans

Monday, April 7, 2014

Testemunho e Conversão (Testimony and Conversion)

Oi família!

Wow.  Who loved conference?  I did!  On the mission, conference is one of the greatest experiences you can have.  We call it the "mission superbowl" or because I´m in Brazil "O Copo do Mundo da Missão" (the world cup of the mission).  I feel that in every way I arrived and left the conference as two completely different people.  The Spirit has begun to speak to me more through my heart lately and I feel a fire burining there that hasn´t gone out since yesterday.  I felt like I received revelation upon revelation and I cannot wait to review what I learned again and again in the Ensign. 

While the experience of the week will relate to conference, I will begin with something that happened earlier in the week.  We had the opportunity to do exchanges again.  As I talked with one elder in particular about his experiences as a missionary he said "well, I´ve prayed a number of times about the church and every time I´ve had one of those feelings you just can´t deny.  I know it´s true."  But yet, there was a lack of excitement.  There was a lack of action that I saw as I observed throughout the day.  So, that´s the real question.  What is the difference between testimony and conversion?

As we study the words of Elder Bednar from the October 2012 general conference we find that "knowing the gospel is true is the essence of a testimony.  Consistently being true to the gospel is the essence of conversion."  Therefore, a testimony should not simply be a knowldge of things as they really are, but a driving force to act in such a manner.  This is where the introspection comes into play.  Do I act according to the testimony I have of the gospel?

We had the opportunity this past week to hear the words of the prophet of God.  He and the other men we ordain as prophets, seers, and revelators, gave us inspired instruction and direction for our lives.  We heard a number of talks about obedience.  President Uchtdorf spoke about gratitude in all things. President Monson, the prophet of God himself, spoke about increased kindness towards our bretheren.  The list continues on and on.  But here´s the key.  We can know that these men are called and ordained of God and Jesus Christ themselves to lead and guide Their church today.  We can know that the messages that they share are true by the power of the Holy Ghost.  We can know where Kolob is and how to hie there.  But how will any of these things help us if we don´t do anything with them?  Do we simply have a testimony?  Or are we truly convereted to the point that we act according to that testimony?

I, personally, received a very powerful witness of the truthfulness of the message that I share on a daily basis.  More important Who, truly, is in charge of this church.  And as I consider this fire burning in my heart, the real question that rings in my ears is "What am I going to do about it?"  So we study, we read, and then we apply.  Don´t just let conference pass by as a reason to watch church on TV.  Use this in every way, shape, and form, to become better, greater, and happier than ever before.  Turly, miracles occur in our lives when we follow the words of the living prophets.

I know without a doubt that Jesus Christ lives and is the head of His one true and living church upon the earth, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  Thomos S. Monson is His chosen prophet in this day and age as were other prophets in generations of old.  Joseph Smith saw Jesus Christ and God the Father in that grove in the Spring of 1820 and they have brought forth miracles in the land since that day by means of their chosen prophets.  I know all this because the Book of Mormon is true.  This is the knowledge which sustains me.  But what will I do with it?  I guess we´ll begin finding out this week.

Até o próximo!

Élder Evans